Flight Lesson – 19
A logbook lays in a box on my hangar floor in the company of things I keep to remind me of where I’ve been. Leather bound lines sit silently in past tense, present yet. Not updated for years, this linear ledger is left unfinished. A cypher waiting to be broken, you might wonder why it stopped when it did? I know the key. A foreigner, I arrived in the New Land of old planes and my world changed. Like an immigrant landing on Ellis Island, I was given the chance to begin my history again. Set free to explore in my Stearman that first summer, I saw undiscovered beauty in the air like second sight. Learning to fly my open-cockpit biplane allowed me to have another first flight. With great freedom comes great responsibility. I wanted to record what I had found for people who were not free to chase their dreams. When I went to write, confining bars confronted me. The logbook I had kept for over a decade looked like a leather bound cage. How could I fit on a single black line what it felt like to land my Stearman in a clover covered field of butterflies? Where was the space big enough to log a life-altering experience? Never one to settle for status quo, I question why everything is what it is.
Were my flights merely a census statistic? A legal document documenting my Captain’s decisions. No.
Were my flights just a measurement of time and distance? Metered out like so many knots in a mariners chip log line to estimate the speed of my vessel. No.
Do I log love, and gratitude, and joy in tenths? Dividing my heart between invisible state lines like a mathematical percentage. No.
Is safely landing on the side of a closed runway, before the fist of a summer storm slammed into me, logged as second in command? Would there be room to write how my eyes were bruised with tears after I saw the power of prayer and thunderstorms first hand? No.
Am I accumulating hours in the air to impress? Fighting antiquated standards to merely meet the currency requirements of a bourgeois FAA bureaucracy. No.
A logbook cannot begin to write the stories of my pilot’s skies if kept in captivity. Epic stories of pride, of awe, of fear, of bliss. How is there enough space on a single black line for this? A rule breakers blood runs through the roots of my wild Irish hair, and whips in the face of conformity. I needed to help my logbook break free. The ripples of possibility set off a hurricane of questions. What if a women, an artist, had designed the first logbook? Like a Butterfly Effect, the flutter of gentle wings brushing away confining lines might change everything about how pilot’s leave their legacy. Couldn’t a logbook be anything we wanted it to be?
A Journal. An open expression of hope, reminding us each take-off is best made from a new blank page letting us begin again.
A Canvas. A colorful handcrafted frame waiting for hours of art to be laid down on linen, flying memories ribbed stitched together by an artist’s hand.
A Scrapbook. A free flowing unlined archive, holding snap pockets of mementos, menus, souvenirs, and pictures that line the flight bags of pilot’s lives.
A Songbook. A composition of video and audio from the sounds and sights of each flight. A folksong singing you to sleep at night listening to the voices of home.
Erasing the furrowed lines from my logbook’s worried brow, I was free to replace them with the limitless horizon of unlimited possibilities. Explorers together, my plane and I made a pact. We would collect beautiful pictures, and poems, and pieces of earth and sky. Sharing our shared stories anyway we pleased. Meticulous logs are kept on his hobbs, while I am free to forget time and never wear a watch. There are poets, and artists, and filmmakers, and explorers locked in conformities cages. I see you hiding behind your mirrored aviators, thinking about how to leave your legacy. My hands shook like yours the day I published my logbook and bared my soul. A quick sketch of my unsure hand lays on the cover of my first journal, to remind me of where I’ve been. Anyone who has lived in captivity sees the freedom to fly differently. Each minute of it is precious so you learn to fight for its survival. Be brave. Question everything. Believe you can influence change in aviation that’s long overdue. Color outside the lines with me, so we can co-create our own masterpiece of WE.
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